Pusha inaugurates "Daytona" with a no-nonsense 45-minute set.
The sun beat down relentlessly on New York City’s Randall’s Island on day two of Governors Ball. 2 Chainz battled the heat with a Hawaiian shirt. During his exuberant set, he informed the crowd that he “enjoy[s] long walks to the bank” and stopped the music twice to make sure that everyone was sufficiently hydrated.
A couple hundred yards away, on other side side of a converted driving range underneath the festival’s lone tent, things were about to get much colder: Pusha T was about to perform for the first time since the release of his new album Daytona and his savage Drake diss “The Story of Adidon.”
The crowd came for beef. Packed like sardines under the tent’s massive canopy, the throng of young rap fans (median age: 17) started a “Fuck Drake” chant no less than three times over the course of Pusha T’s set. But Pusha did not take the bait. He silenced each chant with a silent, extended palm of the hand. Evidently more comfortable rapping than talking, he allowed few gaps between songs and delivered a captivating, no-nonsense 45-minute set, which included the inaugural performance of Daytona in its complete glory.
Pusha opened the proceedings by casually sauntering onstage and launching straight into “If You Know, You Know.” He spent the remainder of his set bouncing around his three most recent projects (Daytona, King Push — Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude, My Name is My Name), with occasional ventures into his verses from Cruel Summer and Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. He maintained the audience’s rapt attention from start to finish, partly out of the hope that he would talk cash shit about Drake, but mostly because he raps in a voice somehow both emotive and dispassionate, because he is a man who speaks with an unwavering conviction both during songs and between them. I speak the gospel… I could baptize a brick... You are looking at the president of G.O.O.D. Music… I ain’t doing singing tonight. He paced the stage methodically, motivational speaker-like, and kept his flailing arms that Rembert Browne once observed to a minimum.
One of Pusha T’s many admirable qualities is that his trademark “yeuch!” is a true distillation of his worldview, a sneeze to rid himself of the bullshit written into each syllable he utters. And though his absolute confidence was never in doubt during this set, he was most particularly thrilling on tracks like “New God Flow,” where he spelled it out in explicit terms. I believe there's a God above me, I'm just the God of everything else. I put holes in everything else…
He performed the first 30 seconds of “Crutches, Crosses, Caskets,” then decided it was too slow and launched into the eternal Clipse classic “Grindin,” to the crowd’s great delight. It was a glorious moment. The crowd lurched to Pharrell’s lunch table production. The DJ scratched with a fury. Ryan Leslie showed up outside the back right corner of the tent, flanked by a videographer scrupulously documenting his every move, a model and a massive bodyguard wearing a suit.
Pusha found a sixth gear towards the end of his set during the three-song run of “Mercy,” “Move that Dope,” and “Don’t Like” in which he rapped suddenly manically like his life depended on it. He subsequently took a more laid-back approach on the penultimate track “Infrared,” letting the myriad Drake burns sizzle of their own accord. It was written by Nas, but it came from Quentin. He concluded the song by quietly dropping his head and raising a lone right index finger in the air. It was one of two statuesque poses he had repeatedly held for several seconds at a time during the set. In the other, he would stand with his eyes closed, head back, hands clasped in prayer. It was from these moments of repose that he would spring forth when it came time to rap.
Indeed, before he launched into his final song of the day, “Drug Dealers Anonymous,” Pusha uttered a growl of three words: “Daytona, motherfucking masterpiece.” Then the beat dropped.
1 If You Don’t Know You Know
2 The Games We Play
6 What Would Meek Do
7 So Appalled
8 New God Flow
9 Numbers on the Board
10 Crutches, Crosses, Caskets
12 Come Back Baby
15 Move That Dope
16 Don’t Like
17 Hard Piano
19 Drug Dealers Anonymous